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Document 980587
Copyright ©ERS Journals Ltd 1998
European Respiratory Journal
ISSN 0903 - 1936
Eur Respir J 1998; 11: 1188–1190
DOI: 10.1183/09031936.98.11051188
Printed in UK - all rights reserved
Bronchial stenosis and sclerosing mediastinitis: an uncommon
complication of external thoracic radiotherapy
St. Dechambre*, J. Dorzee*, J. Fastrez**, C. Hanzen+, P. Van Houtte+, J.P. d'Odémont++
Bronchial stenosis and sclerosing mediastinitis: an uncommon complication of external
thoracic radiotherapy. St. Dechambre, J. Dorzee, J. Fastrez, C. Hanzen, P. Van Houtte, J.P.
d'Odémont. ©ERS Journals Ltd 1998.
ABSTRACT: The side-effects of radiation therapy on the bronchial tree or on the
mediastinum are seldom reported. In this setting, we report a case of sclerosing mediastinitis with bronchial stenosis discovered 1 yr after external radiotherapy for lung
The patient was treated with a Dumont stent and has so far had an uneventful further course for up to 42 months. Bronchial stenosis related to mediastinal fibrosis
after radiotherapy has not been reported previously.
Eur Respir J 1998; 11: 1188–1190.
Depts of *Radiology, **Thoracic Surgery
and ++Respiratory Medicine, Centre Hospitalier Régional Clinique Saint Joseph,
Mons, Belgium. +Dept of Radiotherapy, Clinique Louis Caty, Baudour, Belgium.
Correspondence: J.P. d'Odemont
Dept of Respiratory Medicine
CHR Clinique Saint Joseph
5 Avenue Baudouin de Constantinople
7000 Mons
Fax: 32 65385599
Keywords: Bronchial stenosis
sclerosing mediastinitis
thoracic radiotherapy
Received: June 23 1997
Accepted after revision October 3 1997
Thoracic radiotherapy is one of the major treatment
modalities in lung cancer. Radiation pneumonitis and fibrosis are well-known side-effects. ''Radiation bronchitis" in
the form of inflammatory reaction of the airways mucosa
following therapeutic external-beam radiation and highdose endobronchial radiation (brachytherapy) has also been
reported. Otherwise, there is very little mention in the literature regarding the effects of the radiation on the airways.
In this article, we report a case of sclerosing mediastinitis with bronchial stenosis discovered 1 yr after external
thoracic radiotherapy.
Case report
A right upper lobectomy for a peripheral adenocarcinoma of the ventral segment of the right upper lobe was
performed on a 59 yr old woman in November 1992. This
patient had a relevant medical history of a 40 pack-year
history of smoking, a left sylvian stroke in 1988, and an
inferior myocardial infarction in 1990. The postoperative
staging (tumour, node, metastasis (TNM) classification),
using a systematic mediastinal sampling, was T3N0M0 in
view of an extension to the parietal pleura and the absence
of metastases.
External radiation therapy was, therefore, performed using an 18 MeV photon linear accelerator. Doses of 2 Gray
(Gy) each were delivered in 27 fractions by a combination
of anteroposterior parallel opposed fields (16 fractions),
anterior direct fields (seven fractions), and anteroposterior
opposed oblique angle wedge fields (four fractions). The
total dose applied to the tumour bed and the right hilum
was around 57 Gy. The total dose applied to the paratracheal left chain was approximately 45 Gy, and the spinal
cord received about 42 Gy.
In November 1993, the patient complained of persistent
cough and a gradual onset of dyspnoea. On physical examination, a decrease in the breath sounds over the right
lung was noted, the left lung being clear; no other findings
of note were detected. Blood results were normal except
for a slight elevation of hepatic enzymes. The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) was 10 ng·mL-1 (normal values <7
ng·mL-1), the level before the operation being 15 ng·mL-1.
The Mantoux test was negative.
Chest radiography disclosed a right hilar enlargement
and a right apical thickening. Thoracic computed tomography (CT) showed the presence of a right paratracheal
mass with extension around the right main-stem bronchus,
the lumen of which was severely narrowed (fig. 1). The
subcarinal area was also involved. A slight heterogeneous
enhancement was observed after administration of contrast material. An area of soft tissue density containing
dilated bronchi, with a straight edge corresponding to
radiation fibrosis localized in the middle lobe with adjacent pleural thickening was present conforming to the
radiation port. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed that this mass had a low intensity signal both in T1
and T2 weighted images. This short T2 relaxation time
was said to be suggestive of a benign fibrous process.
Fibreoptic examination revealed an 80% extrinsic stenosis of the right main-stem bronchus. This stenosis extended along the intermediate trunk. The mucosa had
Fig. 1. – Computed tomography scan showing extrinsic narrowing of
the right main-stem bronchus related to the presence of a right paratracheal and hilar mass.
a normal appearance. Multiple and extensive bronchial biopsies were unremarkable. Mediastinoscopy showed right
peribronchial induration, with multiple adherences but without a distinct mass. In view of this and the tendency to
bleed easily, biopsies were not performed. An endobronchial Dumont stent was positioned in the right main-stem
bronchus in November 1993, resulting in a good clinical
Fibreoptic reassessment in July 1994 showed that the
initial portion of the right main-stem bronchus and the distal portion of the trachea on the right side were distorted.
A longer stent was therefore positioned to fit better with
the stenosis. New bronchial biopsies performed at this
time were unremarkable.
The patient was then regularly assessed by thoracic CT
and bronchoscopy. Up to the present time, clinical, biological and imaging studies have been unsuccessful in determining any potential malignant process.
Sclerosing mediastinitis is a rare condition characterized by an extensive fibrotic reaction creating a mediastinal or hilar mass, which may compress the tracheobronchial,
digestive or vascular structures of the mediastinum. The
most common cause of sclerosing mediastinitis is fungal
infection, especially histoplasmosis, other main causes
being tuberculosis (particularly in Europe), sarcoidosis,
traumatic haemorrhage and drugs (methysergide). Association with autoimmune diseases, sclerosing cholangitis
and Riedel's thyroiditis, is observed in some instances.
Sclerosing mediastinitis related to radiotherapy is rarely
reported. Recently, in a series of 18 cases of sclerosing
mediastinitis, MOLE et al. [1] reported the case of three
patients who received cytotoxic chemotherapy and exter-
nal chest radiotherapy (radiation doses not specified) for a
neoplastic disorder with lymph node involvement (two
non-small cell carcinomas and one Hodgkin's disease).
WHITCOMB and SCHWARZ [2] described two cases of sclerosing
mediastinitis, for which no apparent cause other than the
external radiation therapy could be found. Irradiation was
delivered with a total dose of 60 Gy for a lung squamous
cell carcinoma with lymph node involvement, and with 40
Gy for a Hodgkin's disease. Similar observations were
carried out on one single case of irradiated Hodgkin's disease both by RODRIGUEZ GARCIA et al. [3] (with a radiation dose
of 40 Gy) and by MORRONE et al. [4]. Bronchial stenosis, as
seen in the present patient, was not rep-orted in these
In the setting of a history of malignancy in particular,
reports highlight the difficulty of asserting the benign character of the sclerosing mediastinal process. Mediastinoscopy is currently performed [1, 5], given the well-known
lack of accuracy of radiological explorations such as CT
scanning and MRI. However, for the latter, decreased signal intensity in T2-weighted sequences may suggest that
the mass is of a fibrotic nature [5].
Our presentation raises the issue of post-external radiation bronchial stenosis. Reports on direct adverse effects
of radiotherapy on the tracheobronchial tree are scarce,
most studies dealing with effects on the lung parenchyma,
which is considerably more radiosensitive. ''Radiation bronchitis'', manifesting itself as a reddened hyperaemic airway
mucosa and thickened bronchial secretions, following therapeutic external-beam radiation doses (50–60 Gy) applied
to the lung has seldom been described. However, only a
few articles have reported stenosis in proximal bronchi 6–
15 months after external-beam radiation for lung cancer
using 80 Gy doses [6], or tracheal stenosis after irradiation
of tracheal cancers with doses ranging 50–70 Gy [7, 8].
No extrinsic compressions were noted.
In our observation, the right main-stem bronchial stenosis appeared to be extrinsic, being related to the presence
of a right hilar and paratracheal mass disclosed 1 yr after
the completion of an external-beam radiation therapy. The
absence of initial neoplastic mediastinal node involvement, the negativity of the repeated bronchial biopsies
over a period as long as 42 months, and the results of the
mediastinoscopy and of the successive thoracic CT led us
to seriously consider the presence of post-radiotherapy
sclerosing mediastinitis.
This case illustrates an unusual complication (bronchial
stenosis) related to mediastinal fibrosis in the setting of
thoracic radiotherapy, bearing in mind that the role of surgery cannot be excluded. To the best of our knowledge,
this has not yet been reported. Potential factors for the
onset of post-radiotherapy fibrosis have recently been discussed by DELANIAN et al. [9], emphazing the importance of
the microvascular network supply. As our patient suffered
from an advanced vascular disease, it is tempting to
hypothesize that vascular derangement may have contributed to the enhancement of the mediastinal fibrotic process. It seems to us that, despite the lack of clinical reports
on this hypothesis, this merits consideration as no other
aetiological factors are suspected at the present time.
Acknowledgement: The authors are grateful to C. Hennequin, Hôpital Saint Louis, Paris, France, for his valuable advice.
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Hayakawa K, Mitsuhashi N, Saito Y, et al. Adverse
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